I signed up to be a Global Chums mentor in Spring of 2017, at the same time as I signed up to be an academic mentor. I wanted to be an academic mentor because I’d had one myself, who was extremely supportive and helpful whenever I needed it. As for Global Chums, it was the first year of the scheme and the organizer sent everyone e-mails asking for prospective mentors, and it sounded like a great way to share the things I’d learned about being a foreigner on this particular campus, but also of meeting new people from all sorts of places. So I know what my experience has been like, but since I was never a Global Chums mentee, I can’t really recommend it on my own behalf. So I sat down for hot chocolate with one of my mentees, Amelia from New Zealand, to ask her about her experience and whether she’d recommend the scheme to incoming international students.

How did you hear about Global Chums?

I saw it on the the University of Exeter website, and I saw that we get contacted about it automatically anyway, so I didn’t need to do anything. I also did a lot of digging around the university website as I was looking for what course I was going to do, so that’s how I mostly found out about it.

How would you describe the overall service it provides and your experience with it?

I found it really helpful before I got to uni, because I could actually ask a student all the questions I had, otherwise you end up e-mailing an office who will usually refer you to a webpage, when what you really want to know is what it’s ‘like’ from a student.  It was helpful with getting to know people at the start, and getting to know my way around really quickly, because it meant I was involved in going around Falmouth with all the international students, which was really cool, and all the free food!

Free food is always a bonus.

Always a bonus! Especially when it’s cream tea. Yeah, I found it really fun, getting to know people from all these different nationalities as well, hearing people’s stories and that kind of thing. Although I don’t really use it now and haven’t for most of my time here because I’m a pretty independent person, it was really helpful at the start. It was good because I knew it was there if I had questions, and now I have friends through Global Chums or know other international students that I wouldn’t have met otherwise, because they’re not on the same course as me, or they don’t live on campus. So, that’s really cool.

So, would you then recommend it to future international students?

Definitely, it’s really helpful and it makes you feel more a part of the university, especially because you do have different culture to the majority of people going to the university. It makes it feel like a much more inclusive experience, and it’s kind of a celebration of the cultures. I really like how the international society is involved with Global Chums, they put on different events throughout the year, I went to a couple of them where you just meet up with the other international students and people see how you’re going. So you get to know people better and better throughout uni, being able to do fun stuff together.

What was your favourite part of first year?

The beginning of the warmer months. It makes it all worth it! Suddenly the sun comes out, the flowers are out, the campus looks like a totally different placeI mean, I’m used to wearing sandals, shorts, t-shirts, maybe this jacket on top, that’s what I wore all year around, pretty much, in winter as well, and it was a bit cold! But now it’s May, it’s back to the weather I’m used to and it feels great.

Any other thoughts?

The contact you have with your mentor before the start of term is great, as it’s just a reminder that the uni is invested in you before you go there, because it’s all really exciting leading up to your departure… But it is difficult for international students and it is a little bit daunting especially when you’re on the other side of the world trying to prepare for this new experience when you have no idea what it’s going to be like. I was lucky that I had someone here that I could stay with a few days before I came, get over jet lag and all that kind of stuff, but I know most people don’t. If I hadn’t had that, my contact with my mentor could have come in useful as someone who could have helped if there were any emergencies.

I want to remind incoming students to bring wellies, too. I didn’t bring my wellies! Or boots. And I needed them for my course – we need them because you do things like rockpooling practicals and you go out into muddy fields but luckily I had a really ripped pair of trainers as well, which were so ripped I can’t wear them anymore. Bring wellies! You could buy them here, but what’s the point if you already have a good pair.

Thanks Amelia! 

I’m so glad Amelia had such a good experience, not only with Global Chums but also overall at uni so far. If you’re an international student, including an exchange student or someone who’s just been living abroad for some time, it’s clearly a very helpful scheme, not just in terms of mentorship but also as a way to make friends quickly and help each other find your way around in a new environment and throughout a year packed with fun events and, of course, free food.